Crossroads Asia

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Resigns Amid Road Construction Scandal

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Crossroads Asia

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Resigns Amid Road Construction Scandal

Temir Sariyev was just shy of one year in office.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Resigns Amid Road Construction Scandal
Credit: Kglive/Wikimedia commons

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev resigned Monday after mounting questions from Parliament about his role in the awarding of a tender for a $100 million road project to a Chinese company.

Sariyev took up the prime minister’s seat in May 2015, after the former premier, Djoomart Otorbayev, resigned in conjunction with almost-routine squabbling over the Kumtor gold mine.

At a press conference, Sariyev said “[s]quabbles, rumors and gossip have upset the balance within the government… The government’s work has stalled at such a difficult time.” He stressed his innocence

Last month, reported that a parliamentary commission that had been formed in February found that the Chinese company, Longhai, that had won a tender to construct a 104-kilometer part of the ring road around Issyk-Kul did not have the proper licences to construct the project.

Kanat Isayev, the leader of the Kyrgyzstan Party faction, asked Minister of Transport Argynbek Malabayev in a hearing why the Chinese company won the tender. According to the minister, both a Kyrgyz company and a Turkish company had underbid the Chinese company.

On April 7, parliament called for both Malabayev and Sariyev to resign. As Akipress reported, Malabayev accused his deputy, Ulan Uezbayev, of helping Longhai win the tender at the behest of Sariyev’s associates. He also accused Sariyev of having personal interests in the awarding of the tender to the Chinese company. Sariyev petitioned President Almazbek Atambayev to push for Malabayev’s resignation, but Atambayev declined, ordering the state anti-corruption agency to investigate the accusations.

Sariyev took to Facebook to defend himself, posting a 13-point defense. He stressed that he was not involved in the tender procedures and endorsed an objective investigation of that matter. He also pointed a finger at one of his aides. In resigning, Sariyev did much of the same, saying “I am ready to resign, but I will fight for my own name and for my credibility. I am asking for a fair and objective investigation.”

Isaev said Sariyev’s resignation was the “right decision,” but criticized Sariyev’s Facebook defense. In response to a question, he said it set a bad precedent for Parliament. Isaev said Wednesday that the committee was scheduled to submit its results, “So, Temir Sariev could answer all the questions, instead of posting a response of the parliamentary commission in the social networks.” According to TASS, the Parliament was to consider a motion of no confidence on Wednesday.

It seems Sariyev preferred to walk out than be thrown out of office. Kyrgyzstan has had fairly rapid turnover in prime minsters, with almost as many people holding the office as years of independence.